Jadon Sancho incoming but Leeds United carry own 'fear factor' into Manchester United opener

MARCUS Rashford is one less problem for Leeds United to worry about in their Manchester United opener.

Thursday, 15th July 2021, 11:33 am
Updated Thursday, 15th July 2021, 11:34 am

The Whites will not have to deal with Rashford in their Premier League curtain-raiser at Old Trafford next month as the England forward recovers from shoulder surgery.

Probably imminent £73m recruit Jadon Sancho instead then, and Bruno Fernandes, Paul Pogba, Edinson Cavani, the list goes on.

But a seasoned Leeds side have now been here before and can approach both a second season in the Premier League and the Old Trafford opener without trepidation, not that they will have been fearful before.

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REUNITED? Leeds United's England international midfielder Kalvin Phillips, left, looks likely to face Three Lions team mate Jadon Sancho, right, in the season opener at Manchester United. Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images.

It's not the Leeds way, especially under Whites head coach Marcelo Bielsa who is always respectful of the opposition but equally focused on his own side's attacking game.

Forget Sancho and Fernandes, the Red Devils will have to contend with Jack Harrison and new boy Junior Firpo on one flank; Raphinha and Luke Ayling on the other.

Patrick Bamford will be looking to hit the ground running upfront and record signing Rodrigo could be set for lift off in his second season at Elland Road.

Then there's United's player of the year Stuart Dallas and Mateusz Klich, oh, and England international European Championships runner up Kalvin Phillips.

Five weeks after suffering the heartache of defeat in the Euro 2020 final together, Phillips will be reunited with Three Lions colleagues Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw at Old Trafford, this time as Premier League rivals, and the ultimate rivals.

And now that the Euros are out of the way, the start of the new season cannot come soon enough and who knows quite what Leeds could achieve in their second season back?

Not that anyone is under any pretensions that excelling in the 2021-22 campaign is going to be easy.

Rodrigo warned as much when assessing the task presented by Leeds United's second season back in the top flight.

"Everyone knows that it will be harder than the last one," said the Spanish forward.

"The opponents already know us better and it will be really tough.

"Maybe last season the expectation of people for us is less than this year.

"I think this last year we showed that we have the level to be in between the best so the expectation will be higher. That's natural."

Leeds really were in and amongst the best in their first season back, both in terms of more than holding their own in matches against them, and in their finishing position, a superb ninth-placed finish with a feeling it could have been even higher.

A stellar haul of 59 points were accrued via 18 victories and just five draws and Leeds ended the season with just one defeat from their last 11 games, via the 2-0 reverse at Brighton.

Bielsa's Whites looked a different proposition to the side beaten 6-2 at Manchester United five days before Christmas when Rashford started upfront.

Leeds won't have to worry about him this time, and in any case, will be focusing on their own attacking swagger.

Thirty days to go and we cannot wait.

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Thank you Laura Collins